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Muse of Fire

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  715 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Since the publication of Song of Kali in 1985, Dan Simmons has produced a substantial body of fiction notable for its vigor, variety, and sheer imaginative reach. His latest, a novella-length tale of startling originality, beautifully embodies these qualities, reaffirming Simmons's position as one of the finest storytellers of our time.

Muse of Fire takes place in a remote
Hardcover, 105 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Subterranean Press (first published October 28th 2008)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  715 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
What a fabulous little novella! I just totally fell in love with this story of a far-future troupe of Shakespearean actors traveling from planet to planet performing the Bard's plays for scattered human slaves on inhospitable mining planets. In this future universe, Shakespeare is the only remnant of human culture left. The troupe catches the attention of some higher life-forms and is called to a command performance. You'll just have to read the story to find out what happens next.

With this
Ben Babcock
Whereas delaying reading A Case of Exploding Mangoes for four years didn’t improve the experience, I am glad that I waited until now to read Muse of Fire. I recently read Much Ado About Nothing for the first time, in order to teach it to a Year 9 class, and being familiar with that play’s plot and characters definitely improved my comprehension of this Shakespeare-infused novella.

Dan Simmons banks on the continued popularity of the Bard in this book, which is set in a future where humanity has
Aug 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Suzanne by: curiosity about Dan Simmons
I don’t read a lot of science fiction. Not lately, anyway. Oh, sure, there was the obligatory fling when I was in my 20s: the Isimov Foundation trilogy, Herbert’s Dune series, a little Heinlein. But since then, I’ve indulged very little in this genre.

I was totally onboard this little spaceship of a novella for the first nine-tenths before the ending let me down. Initially I thought my dissatisfaction with the ending might be because I failed to make connections that a more experienced sci-fi
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This lovely tribute to the bard is just profound enough to remind any Shakespeare fan just how amazing old Willy is, laced with enough intergalactic strife to fuel the fire of die hard sci fi fans, and short enough to allow a mother of two hobgoblins the chance to actually read an entire book in one sitting.

Muse of Fire tells the story of "The Earth's Men" a space faring Shakespeare company that travels the universe in their ship "The Muse of Fire" performing the bard's works for what left of
Jun 13, 2009 rated it liked it
In an indeterminate future humans are the slaves ("doles" and "arbeiters") of a hierarchy of aliens - archons, poimen, demiurgos and Abraxas - and the Earth's Men tour the galaxy performing Shakespeare. Beyond a nice, well written novella that incorporates the Bard's work (primarily "King Lear," "Hamlet" and "Romeo and Juliet") and celebrates his genius, it also says that Shakespeare is just the beginning of exploring what it means to be human. As the ship's AI (the Muse) says at the end, "You ...more
Thom Dunn
A junior member of a Shakespeare troop living in the far and fantastic future of the human race tells of several command performances--Much Ado...King Lear....Hamlet....Romeo and Juliet --given for reified gnostic gods. I could say this short novel could not contain and flesh out the many planets and perlieus Simmons envisioned, or I could be honest and say I didn't get it. The astronomical/metaphysical talk seemed like gabble to me. On the other hand, there are some fine nuggets of Shakespeare ...more
For me, Simmons is a historical horror or sci-fi horror writer first, and then a straight forward Sci-Fi writer. But this book is about stories, poetry, and religion

A group of performers is forced to perform Shakespeare's greatest plays and if they fail, the human race is doomed. Doomed, doomed, doomed. Wiped out.

Simmons does a wonderful job capturing the fear and stress of the needed performances. But the world building is good as well and the various levels of aliens as well as the space
Jon Norimann
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science_fiction
"Muse of Fire" is a fun, short read about the effect Shakespeare's works have on aliens. A bit too magical for my taste, but overall reading it was an entertaining 90 mins.
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Muse of Fire was a straightforward read that has more interesting implications if you care to think about it.

On the surface, the book serves as a sort of travelogue story through Simmons' universe. The main characters are human actors in the company the Earth's Men. They travel through known space staging Shakespeare's plays for human settlements. Humanity has long since been subjugated by a hierarchy of other races, and the Earth's Men are one of the few ways that human culture survives.

colleen the convivial curmudgeon

A decent story, and I liked the twist at the end. I thought it was kind of funny and interesting how Shakespeare is held as the bastion of civilization, and one of the only things held-over in this vision of the future, but I especially liked the bit at the end about having to learn new poets.

The philosophy was interesting, as were the descriptions of the bard's plays, but both went on a bit too much.

Ultimately, though, I never really connected with it on any kind of emotional level, thus I
Jay S
Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it
super short but very dan simmons-y book. Set in the very far future with alien species and an enslaved human race. Brush up on your shakespeare plays before reading
Nov 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Simmons completists and Shakespeare fanatics
The packaging is quite nice, with rich, creamy pages and a running head in a contrasting color. The content is a little less pleasing, though. This book is described as a novella, which may even be technically correct, but it felt more lightweight to me than that, no more than a long short story. I made short work of it, anyway, reading the book over the course of one sluggish Saturday afternoon.

The gist of the plot is simple to describe as well: what if Shakespeare's plays were all that is
Mar 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Started well enough, but ended up having one of those meeting-the-gods-mystical-experience climaxes that don't do much for me. Coupled with the woman-with-no-personality-and-barely-any-dialog-but-she-sure-is-pretty being bestowed on the male hero as some sort of reward (reward for what, I have no clue, he wasn't all that special) at the end, it left me unimpressed.

That and I am not big on boner books. That's what I call books like this that are written because the author has a boner for some
Mark Tallen
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dan Simmons has become one of my very favourite authors, I think he is an outstanding writer. I say this and I have not read even half of his catalogue of work. However, I am that impressed by what I have read and it has catapulted him into my top four authors. This book, a novella, is a little gem. It does contain a lot of Shakespeare references and some of that went over my head but I did LEARN things and it has educated me on a few Shakespeare topics. The imagination and world(s) building is ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it liked it
I give this novella 5 stars for the idea but 3 stars for its execution.

The story is set in a future where humanity has been subjegated and dispersed among farflung habitable planets. Initially saved from extinction because aliens found a voice of merit in the works of William Shakespeare, a roving troop of actors is selected to perform his plays in front of hierarchical aliens as a test for mankind's continued existance.

As a long time fan of Dan Simmons, I was disappointed he did not flesh out
Kae Cheatham
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spec-fiction
Far future, Otherworldly, when humans are pawns of other entities. A traveling Shakespearean troupe encounters more than they ever expected as their renditions of the Bard's various plays launch a new era. Wilbr tells the story (first person) and he becomes a critical player in the denouement. Excellent interweaving of the ancient plays with the incredible reality of their lives. Furthered my appreciation of Shakespeare. I first borrowed this book at my Public Library, but have since bought it.

May 06, 2015 rated it liked it
This meditation on The Bard and what he means to humanity both now and in the far future is interesting in its details but a little cliched in its reliance on popular tropes to characterise the troupe of actors central to the story. Still, it’s fun and quick and provides a really interesting look at a future where humanity has been completely and totally subjugated by alien overlords.
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Muse of Fire is pure Dan Simmons and is an excellent read. He once again creates and deeply textured world and asks the basic question of what is human and what is religion. The reader follows a traveling troupe of Shakespearean plays on various planets to both human and alien crowds. Fans of Shakespeare will love this homage because it is so well nailed. It is the entire base to the book and you have to understand Shakespeare to understand the story. Man is not at the top of the food chain, but ...more
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The Muse of Fire" by Dan Simmons is not a simple book nor an easy read for those unfamiliar with his work. Simmons creates expansive worlds through which his characters are met with incredible challenges that ask the reader what it means to be human. In this story, we follow a traveling troupe putting on elaborate Shakespearean plays on various planets to both human and alien crowds. Fans of Shakespeare will love this elaborate homage. Others, as you will see from several reviews of this work, ...more
MB Shakespeare
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Let me be clear, I engage with SciFi at the movies; I do not eagerly seek it out on the page. However, when I heard about Simmons book on a Folger Shakespeare podcast, I could not resist. A tale where humans are slaves to aliens, a band of Shakespearean players travels the universe performing. During a particularly wonderful rendition of Much Ado, things begin to change. Really, how could I, a professed Shakespeare nerd, not be enthralled after reading, "Your species was excused upon first ...more
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dan Simmons continues to amaze me with his mastery of high-concept sci-fi, especially in an author known more for his horror stories. It's both a novella about mind-breaking alien species of godlike power and intellect, and a love letter about Shakespeare's plays as the ultimate expression of theater. Even for someone who's not a big theater guy, and was never that into Shakespeare, I loved this book.
Chris Halverson
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable read, enlivening gnostic hierarchy to tell the story of Shakespearean actors in space!
Brayden Norris
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Some a little far-fetched and a strain to envision, accompanied by a somewhat unnecessary sex (classic Simmons style), but a nice little twist at the end.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
3.5 stars. Review to follow.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I often don't get Dan Simmons. He's a smart guy, with varied interests, and while he writes stories that can affect me like few other stories can (Hyperion), he also writes stories that go so far over my head that not even radar can find them. Muse of Fire is one of those latter stories.

I didn't get much out of this novella, but I don't know much about Shakespeare, either, and the major theme of this story is Shakespeare. Simmons presents a far-flung future where
MB Taylor
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Finished reading Muse of Fire (2007) by Dan Simmons the other day. Good book, but that’s what I expect from Simmons. Muse of Fire is a novella that Subterranean Press decided to publish as a book, a trend I’m not sure I like. Muse of Fire was really good and I don’t think publishing it with other short fiction would have improved it any. But it’s kind of expensive…

Muse of Fire is science fiction of the distant future kind. The main characters are a troupe of Shakespearean actors, travelling the
Jason Golomb
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
“They can see and hear and maybe translate the words, but how can you translate Shakespeare to alien minds?” –Wilbr, “Muse of Fire”

This digital version of this short book has been on sale and is well worth the price. In the far future, in a far part of the universe, a space-travelling group of actors wander worlds inhabited by human slaves, performing the works of Shakespeare. Narrated through the voice of a secondary player, Wilbr, Simmons builds a world of creatively crafted aliens, religions
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
Reading Dan Simmons is always interesting - he loves to just drop you into the world that he has created for the story, and you have to read carefully so as to not miss any clues about what is going on. This book is no different. It is narrated by Wilbr, a 20 SEY old man (what is SEY, you ask? not sure, Simmons hardly ever outright explains things like that - if I had been less sleepy, I'm sure I would have figured it out) who is a member of a traveling Shakespeare troupe. They travel the galaxy ...more
As much as it pains me, I have to give this sci-fi novella only three stars (though somewhere between three and four would be more realistic).
The very setting of the story and what little plot it has is very compelling and simply sucks you in from the very start. The very idea is more than lucid: the story is set in a distant future in which the human race is reduced to a mass of toiling slaves to several alien master races, while the protagonists are a part of a lone travelling Shakespearean
Dec 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
synopsis: Muse of Fire, an adult sci fi book telling bout the story of aliens living life for a new generation oh 'human beings'. Even though they are aliens, their goal in life is to play in a famous play( ex. hamlet.) The life of this civilization is basically aliens living human lives; their goal or journey in life is growing up as actors.

Audience: for ages 13+
Purpose: telling a story of life from a different point of view; what can happen in the future
Genre-setting- science
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Dan Simmons grew up in various cities and small towns in the Midwest, including Brimfield, Illinois, which was the source of his fictional "Elm Haven" in 1991's SUMMER OF NIGHT and 2002's A WINTER HAUNTING. Dan received a B.A. in English from Wabash College in 1970, winning a national Phi Beta Kappa Award during his senior year for excellence in fiction, journalism and art.

Dan received his
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